日本基督教団 The United Church of Christ in Japan

【December 2021 No.409】How Kyodan Churches are Handling the Covid-19 Pandemic


From the General Secretary's Desk

How Kyodan Churches are Handling the Covid-19 Pandemic

—Akiyama Toru, general secretary

The Kyodan’s 2020 Annual Report tells how Kyodan churches have been struggling because of the Covid-19 Pandemic.

As the pandemic deepened, many countries declared lockdowns and other severe restrictions. Thus churches faced a time of trial. The Japanese Government declared a state of emergency, restricted non-essential business activities, and requested people to refrain from traveling and gathering, but churches were not forced to close. So it was up to each church to decide how to apply the restrictions. Some churches suspended worship services; some divided worship services into small groups; some restricted the number of people who could attend worship services; and many churches began to prepare online worship services.

The number of resident communicant members declined from about 77,000 in 2019 to 75,000 in 2020, a decrease of 2.5%. Church attendance declined from about 48,000 to 37,000, which was a 22% decrease, but as about half of the churches started online worship services and approximately 5,700 people attend online every week, there is actually about a 10% decrease.  This ongoing decline, however, preceded the pandemic and was thus only accelerated, especially in church school attendance, which dropped 26% from the previous year.

The number of newly baptized people was 747, a significant decline from the 902 of the previous year, while the number of church members who died during that time increased over the previous year. The pandemic severely affected the ministry of the church, and the majority of the almost 1,700 Kyodan churches in Japan had no baptisms.

The pandemic has been forcing social distancing, thus restricting the activities of Kyodan churches and districts, along with its related institutions. Under these circumstances, it has been quite difficult for church ministries to follow Jesus’ command, “You will be my witnesses. . .to the ends of the earth,” as well as the mandate of pastoral care to “rejoice with those who rejoice, mourn with those who mourn.” It has been extremely hard for patients in hospitals, residents in nursing homes, and people on their deathbeds, who were cut off from church, close friends, and even family. Sometimes funerals were affected, and it became necessary to change their forms and procedures. Meetings and activities have gone online, but through this we can see new possibilities for ministry. We are undergoing a paradigm shift in ministry, especially with regards to worship services and various meetings of the church. As the world is under the influence of this pandemic, we must now shine the light of God’s Word on this crisis, looking up to Lord, and walk together with churches around the world toward what God has promised, knowing “that in all things God works for good.” (Tr SK)








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